The fear of medical error: A growth mindset approach to ‘second victim’ support

Project Details

While some research attention has been paid to how health professionals’ cope with the emotional impact of medical error, we take a different approach by examining anxiety about future errors among medical students and junior doctors. To our knowledge, this will be the first research program to carefully explore this issue.

In this research we will examine the impact of a growth mindset on medical error anxiety. The mindset model holds that our implicit assumptions about the origins of abilities (intelligence and talent) has a profound impact on how we view setbacks and failures. Those with a fixed mindset believe that abilities are endowed and static, and thus a failure indicates a lack of ability. Those with a growth mindset view abilities as acquired through effort, practice and learning from setbacks, and thus a failure represents an opportunity for development and improvement. A great deal of research shows that this fundamental difference in how abilities are viewed has a powerful impact on a number of outcomes, including resilience in the face of adversity.

The aims of the project include:

  • Gaining an in-depth understanding of how students and junior doctors think about medical error
  • Developing and testing a quantitative measure of error anxiety
  • Understanding predictors (including mindset) and consequences of medical error anxiety
  • Investigating whether a growth mindset intervention will reduce the negative effects of error anxiety


  • Professor Steve Trumble, MD        MDHS (Head of Department of Medical Education)
  • Senior Research Fellow Michael Fischer               FBE (Centre for Workplace Leadership)
  • Professor Clare Delany               MDHS (Department of Medical Education)
  • Associate Professor David Smallwood, MD          MDHS (Department of Medical Education)

Research Publications

The growth mindset response to clinical error program, Learning and Teaching Initiative Grants, Klein J, Delany C, Fischer M, Trumble S, Smallwood D

Research Group

Student Engagement and Experience

Faculty Research Themes

Infection and Immunology

School Research Themes

Critical Care

Key Contact

For further information about this research, please contact the research group leader.

Department / Centre

Medical Education

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